- NoFap is popular, but there is little scientific evidence backing up proponents’ claims.
- Groups of men whose religious beliefs discourage masturbation are among the most vocal proponents and users of NoFap.
- NoFap may be most helpful for men who need to deal with an interpersonal or mental health issue that masturbation is distracting them from dealing with.
We’ve been arguing about the possible drawbacks and benefits of masturbation for centuries. The latest entry in the discussion is the NoFap movement, which encourages men to abstain from masturbating entirely. So what is NoFap, and is it right for you?
What is NoFap?
The term NoFap means no masturbating. The term (which is now trademarked) began as a message thread on the social media site Reddit. On Reddit, users debated the effects of giving up masturbation, claiming a wide array of possible benefits — from mental clarity to improved health.
This debate is nothing new. In Victorian England, for example, masturbation was considered a serious illness that negatively affected both physical and mental health.
The NoFap movement (named for the slang term “to fap,” which is often used for masturbation because of the sound it makes) has, in the early twenty-first century, taken on some elements of the Victorian view.
Sites like the branded NoFap.com take on what they see as the social ills of not only masturbation but also porn addiction, porn overuse, and compulsive sexual behavior. The site claims that overcoming these practices will “improve your relationships” and “help you reach your sexual health goals.”
To try NoFap, men generally agree to be abstinent from masturbation and pornography for a period of time to “reset” their sex drives and their libidos.
Why Try NoFap?
Men who are experiencing problems with their sexual health, including problems with erectile dysfunction (ED), sometimes consider NoFap as a way to address lost libido and ED. For some, this seems an easier and cheaper way to address sexual dysfunction than medications.
Some men are also drawn to the NoFap idea due to their religious beliefs. Evangelical Christians and members of other religious groups who have restrictive views on sex and sexuality find that the idea fits neatly into their religious ideologies. Men whose religion teaches that masturbation and the use of pornography are sinful are more likely to embrace the idea of abstaining from masturbation as an admirable goal.
Others may be dealing with a sexual compulsion or unwanted sexual thoughts intruding into their daily lives. By abstaining from masturbation, they can focus on addressing the problem itself, preferably while working with a mental health professional.
What Are the Perceived Benefits of NoFap?
Men who engage in the practice and encourage others to do so often claim personal victories of:
- Finding a refocus on their relationship
- Helping them conform to religious or moral values
- Decreasing their use of pornography
- Improving their focus and concentration
- Relieving depression
- Improving overall health
- Reducing the incidence of erectile dysfunction
Is There Any Scientific Evidence to Support the Benefits of NoFap?
Much of the proof of NoFap benefits is anecdotal, stories told by men who say it worked for them. There are a few studies that back up these claims in very specific cases. For example, one study found that for men who feel very guilty about masturbation, giving up masturbation can improve mental health outcomes.
For men without severe guilt associated with masturbation, however, this benefit is likely minimal. Indeed, to date, there is no scientific evidence that proves that masturbation is harmful in most cases. Instead, studies such as this one find that masturbation is part of a man’s healthy sexual development, and it appears it may have benefits for preventing prostate cancer.
Another study challenged the view that excessive pornography viewing caused erectile dysfunction. The study used self-report surveys to track both anxiety and pornography use among 669 men and found the self-reported anxiety predicted ED, while the porn viewing did not.
Similarly, there is no scientific evidence that links NoFap to successfully treating erectile dysfunction. Abstaining from ejaculating for a few days may have certain benefits; however, these are not inherently related to erectile function, which is driven by blood flow. It’s also worth noting that masturbation seems to have little impact on testosterone, with one study finding, at best, a modest increase in free testosterone after masturbation to pornography.
That said, there are many self-reported success stories available online that claim that NoFap helped with ED. These stories may report a placebo effect, a benefit related to the man’s belief in the idea more than to the practice itself. Placebo effects are real, however, and it may be that if you believe NoFap will work for you, perhaps it will.
Similarly, if you’re concerned about how much you masturbate, for any reason, then setting it aside for a while and understanding why you’re worried about it can be helpful.
What Are the Risks of NoFap?
Many psychologists warn against the demonization of masturbation, saying that making men feel that masturbation is wrong will only exacerbate guilt and anxiety, two mental issues that make erectile dysfunction worse. Dr. David J. Ley warns that the NoFap movement can be “dangerous” as it functions on “bad data, lack of knowledge and the intrusion of moral values.”
Another issue is that NoFap may be a bandage over a larger problem. Erectile dysfunction due to emotional problems such as anxiety or depression are complex and often are resolved with the help of a therapist. If masturbation is distracting from these issues, abstaining may be a first step.
Finally, there’s the question of the exact motivation and claims behind why NoFap works. While there are many people advocating for it on strictly personal terms, one researcher found that many misogynist, anti-Semitic, and violent movements also advocate for it as part of a justification for their actions. This is often couched in blaming women as a group for having sexual desires or “distracting” men from more important matters. Others may couch it in extreme language of control, presenting the personal choice to use pornography as a personal weakness or making a man who uses it a lesser person.
How Long Should I Abstain from Porn and Masturbation to Experience the Benefits of NoFap?
The claims as to how long you need to abstain range from a week (the original NoFap Challenge) to a month, with “No Nut November” being the most common time of the year. In truth, the exact length of time seems to depend both on the person and their underlying concerns.
Most effective NoFap stories seem to involve situations where masturbation was a distraction from a larger problem the man wanted to confront. So the answer seems to be, “as long as it takes.”
Are There NoFap Personal Success Stories?
It’s not difficult to find self-reported claims of success, with a few common themes. The following are examples we found on Reddit and other social media sites (edited for grammar and punctuation):
“I’ve been on NoFap for about 6 months now, and I’ve noticed a huge difference in my confidence and outgoingness. I used to be really shy and introverted, but now I’m much more comfortable talking to people and putting myself out there. I think this is because I’m no longer wasting my energy on masturbating, and I’m using that energy to focus on other things, like my hobbies and my relationships.”
“I’ve also noticed that I have more energy and focus since I started NoFap. I used to be really tired all the time, and I would have a hard time concentrating on anything. But now I have more energy, and I’m able to focus on my work and my studies for longer periods of time.”
“My relationships have also improved since I started NoFap. I’m more open and honest with my friends and family, and I’m better able to connect with them on an emotional level. I’m also more attracted to women, and I’m having more success with dating.”
“Overall, I’m much happier and more motivated since I started NoFap. I feel like I have a better control over my life, and I’m more focused on my goals. I’m also more productive, and I’m getting more done in less time.”
“I think the biggest change I’ve noticed is that I’m a better person. I’m more compassionate, more understanding, and more patient. I’m also more honest and trustworthy. I think NoFap has helped me to become a better person, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have experienced it.”
Is NoFap Right for You?
Each man should decide for himself if he would like to try NoFap. There’s no cost and little risk associated with simply not masturbating for a while to see how you feel. As long as men do not become obsessively guilty about their desire to pleasure themselves, the risks are very low.
If abstinence won’t interfere with your daily life, and if you would like to try it to see if it works, take the following steps:
- Read about both sides of the NoFap debate — those who promote it and those who question its usefulness.
- Pick a goal that makes sense for you and is realistic.
- Consult with your doctor about the problems you think it will solve and see what they have to say. Also discuss it with your therapist, if you have one.
- If you would like to join a support group, look for one that aligns with your needs. You may be better served with an in-person sex addiction support group, for example, than an online one.
- Ask yourself what your triggers for masturbation might be. If you are triggered by stress, anger, relationship frustration, or other emotional or psychological factors, dealing directly with those issues can help guide you to a more lasting solution.
eDrugstore Is Here for You
Whether you are struggling with sexual function issues such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation or relationship and intimacy issues, eDrugstore can help. Check out our medication guide or follow the eDrugstore blog for more information about sexual health and other men’s health issues.
Elizabeth Nichols is an experienced and flexible author with extensive experience in both popular media and academic publishing. She specializes in health, medical and travel writing.